LAS VEGAS -- The first defense of Caleb Plant's IBF super middleweight title proved to be even easier than he said it would. 

Firmly superior in terms of speed, power and technique, Plant (19-0, 11 KOs) toyed with previously unbeaten Mike Lee in a dominant third-round TKO at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Plant, a 27-year-old rising star from Ashland, Tennessee, scored a trio of knockdowns before referee Robert Byrd stepped in at 1:29 in the featured undercard bout of the Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman pay-per-view. 

"I've been telling you all week it's not going to go 12 rounds," Plant said. "I stuck to my word and I try to do that. I take my hat off to Mike because it takes a true champion to step into these ropes but it's and still."

The respect shown by both fighters after the bout was in direct contrast to the war of words exchanged leading up to it. In the end, Lee (21-1, 11 KOs) proved he just wasn't remotely on the elite level. 

The 32-year-old Lee, a Notre Dame graduate who earned more fame through a national Subway advertising campaign than his fledgling pro career might have merited, just didn't have the kind of experience against top competition to justify him getting the title shot. 

Lee, a natural light heavyweight who was making his debut at 168 pounds, hit the canvas in Round 1 on a check left hook from Plant that caught him on the chin. Plant continued to light up the body of Lee and easily outbox him. 

"I was just ready for the bell to ring so I could get in there and do my job," Plant said. "We had seen a couple of things here and there [from watching tape on Lee], but I feel like I have a high IQ so it's just about making adjustments."

Two more left hooks produced knockdowns that eventually saw Byrd save Lee from further punishment as the challenger's face became increasingly red and swollen. Byrd seemed to also incorrectly rule a third knockdown in Round 3 as a slip when it appeared a left hook led to Lee hitting the ground. 

After the fight, Plant shared his willingness to fight any of the super middleweight champions, including the winner of the Sept. 28 title bout between Anthony Dirrell and former champion David Benavidez.

"We can definitely unify," Plant said. "The winner of that, it ain't hard to get a hold of me. You know my adviser."